Edmonds Community College signed the Partners for Veteran Supportive Campuses agreement in November at a regular Board of Trustees meeting with John Lee, Director of the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs and Mike Gregoire, First Gentlemen Office of the Governor. Edmonds CC’s Senior Associate Dean of Student Success and Retention, Peter Schmidt, helped create these statewide best practices to welcome veterans to campus.
The agreement was adopted and signed by representatives from nine state agencies, including Governor Gregoire, on September 10, 2009. Higher education institutions have been charged “…to implement best practices and policies designed to foster social support, acceptance, a welcoming environment, and a setting that meaningfully acknowledges the contributions of our veterans.”
Earlier this month, Edmonds Community College dedicated a monument on a hill west of Brier Hall recognizing the service of our nation’s veterans of war and welcoming them as they return to school. Many people are apprehensive when returning to school after time away, but those returning from military service and also combat meet additional complex challenges.
The monument, “From Boots to Books,” shows a pair of worn combat boots resting unlaced atop a pile of new college textbooks. It will serve as a welcome to people transitioning from active military duty to civilian life and embracing new roles in society as veterans and students.
The student Club Vet initiated the creation of the monument and designed the artwork to symbolically reach out to fellow veterans arriving on campus and let them know immediately that the community is prepared to aid them in their transition from soldiers to scholars.
The current president of Club Vet is Troy Montgomery, who served eight years in the Marine Corps, including two tours of duty in Iraq. Montgomery is now working toward his Associate of Science degree with plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Washington.
Veterans are part of the college’s diverse student body. The college has more than 50 clubs supporting students’ personal, professional, and academic interests.
“Edmonds Community College has been a guiding and mentoring force in my life since leaving the military,” said Timm Lovitt, the Washington State Director for Student Veterans of America, an Edmonds CC alumnus and past president of Club Vet.
Lovitt, a U.S. Army veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he was apprehensive the first time he set foot on the college campus. Now he is enrolled at Seattle University pursuing a degree in Public Affairs with plans to go into non-profit leadership. “Veterans need to know that the college accepts them,” he said.
The monument aims to set veterans at ease from the moment they arrive on campus. It will be placed on a hill overlooking the walkway into campus and visible as students approach Lynnwood Hall to enroll.
Edmonds Community College President Jack Oharah will address the dedication ceremony as well as Edmonds Community College Foundation Board Chair and Distinguished Alumnus Steve Pennington. Pennington has often credited his own career success following military service in Vietnam to a strong start at Edmonds Community College.
After serving four years in the Air Force as an airframe mechanic in Vietnam, Pennington furthered his career at The Boeing Company, while continuing to work as an Air Force reservist, by earning an Associate of Arts degree at Edmonds CC. He is also an alumnus of Central Washington University. He retired from Boeing as an executive manager and from the Air Force Reserves as a Chief Master Sergeant.
Club Vet members are raising $5,000 for the veteran’s monument, which has been commissioned from artist Peter Beavis who works out of The Fremont Fine Arts Foundry in Seattle. Any additional monies raised by the club will be used to maintain the monument, produce challenge coins for student veterans, and provide scholarships for veterans and their dependants.
The Edmonds Community College American Federation of Teachers, Central Washington University, and the Edmonds Veterans of Foreign War Post 8870 have pledged funds in support of the project.
The Edmonds Community College Veterans’ Resource Team, led by Peter Schmidt, the college’s senior associate dean for student success and retention and Club Vet adviser, helps support veterans and their families and connect them to campus resources. Eligible veterans receive a 25 percent tuition waiver from the college.
On April 23, 2009, the Washington State Senate recognized Schmidt for his work on behalf of veterans. He was named in Senate Resolution 8632, which tasked colleges with establishing a core of best practices for serving veterans on campus.